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As thousands of lawsuits over heart attacks and other injuries linked to testosterone treatments continue to move forward through the U.S. court system, early trials have resulted in split verdicts, with a federal jury awarding $150 million in damages in July, but a separate Illinois state court jury returning a defense verdict last week. However, additional cases are set to go before other juries in the coming weeks, with another federal “bellwether” trial sent to begin next week.
While testosterone replacement therapy was originally intended to serve as a niche treatment for men suffering from testosterone deficiencies caused by a medical condition, such as hypogonadism, amid aggressive marketing of drugs like Androgel, Testim, Axiron and others, the industry grew to generate more than $2 billion in annual sales several years ago.
There are currently more than 6,500 Androgel lawsuits, Testim lawsuits, Axiron lawsuits and other product liability claims pending nationwide against the markers of various testosterone treatments, alleging that inadequate warnings were provided to users and the medical community about the risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and other health problems.
In July, the first federal “bellwether” trial resulted in a massive punitive damage award against the makers of Androgel, in a case filed by a man who claimed that he suffered a heart attack following use of the drug. While the jury chose to punish the drug maker for recklessly disregarding the safety of the plaintiff and other consumers, no compensatory damages were awarded, raising questions about whether the punitive damage award will stand and whether a re-trial will be necessary.
Last week, a second trial concluded in Cook County, Illinois, involving a lawsuit filed by James Couch, who claimed that he suffered a heart attack two weeks after he began Androgel treatment. The jury found in favor of the drug maker, AbbVie, finding that the it was not liable for Couch’s injuries.
The defense verdict comes as another federal trial is slated to begin jury selections on September 18, involving a lawsuit filed by Jeffrey Konrad, also involving a heart attack allegedly caused by the testosterone gel. This will be the second attempt to place Konrad’s claims before a jury, after an earlier trial in June ended in a mistrial, when one of the involved attorneys suddenly became ill and was unable to continue.
Konrad indicates that he was prescribed AndroGel by his family physician in May 2010, and approximately two months later he suffered a heart attack. The lawsuit will involve allegations that AndroGel is unreasonably dangerous, and that AbbVie misrepresented the safety of the testosterone treatment, withholding information about the risk of heart attacks and other injuries.
The case is part of a series of “bellwether” trials scheduled in the federal court system, which are each designed to help gauge how juries will respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be similar to what will be repeated throughout other cases. Another federal Androgel trial is set to begin in January 2018.
Additional cases over other testosterone drugs have also been scheduled for trial, with two trials against Auxulium Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Testim, set to begin in early November 2017 and April 2018. Two other cases against Eli Lilly, the makers of Axiron, are expected to go before juries in early 2018.
While the outcomes of these early trial dates are not binding on plaintiffs not involved in the case, they are designed to help the parties test the relative strengths and weaknesses of their arguments and promote possible testosterone settlement agreements, which may avoid the need for each individual case to be remanded back to U.S. District Courts nationwide for separate trial dates in the future.